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September 5, 2003

Kim Clijsters



Q. I think you had seven splits tonight on your forehand defensive shots. Is that a personal best?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I have no idea. I don't really count them, to be honest with you. No, I don't know.

Q. I think there were seven tonight. That's a lot.

KIM CLIJSTERS: Especially, I feel, maybe against -- a lot of Lindsay's matches, against her, I've had to use them a lot. They worked today as well. There were a few points where she came in and missed a few overheads. So, yeah, I think they helped. Sometimes, not all the time.

Q. Playing in your first semifinal here at the US Open against Davenport, who has had a bit of experience here, how did that feel on the court?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I felt really good. I was definitely really motivated and, you know, I was really looking forward to it. This is definitely, I think, as a player, is always something you really enjoy. You know, playing a night match, and, you know, seeing, you know, the crowd and, you know, the atmosphere is just different I think than a day match. It was really a lot of fun out there.

Q. Sometimes players and we in the media at the major tournaments talk about players having a kind of inner feeling, a gut feeling that, "This is their time, this is their breakthrough." Do you have any sense of that within yourself? Do you have that sense of, "This is your time"?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, you know, you don't really -- I don't -- maybe that's the way you guys probably think. But I don't think, you know, players feel that. I'm very satisfied with the way I've played so far. This Grand Slam, this has definitely been the toughest out of, you know, all the Grand Slams I've played so far. I've had the toughest opponents I think out of all the seeds. So that's definitely been very motivating, that I've been able to get through those in, you know, straight sets against a lot of tough girls. So that's definitely always something that's, you know, very, very motivating, I think, to take with you into your next round, knowing that you beat a good player, you know, the match before. So you know you're capable of doing it.

Q. There's no sense that this is your time?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I mean, no. I mean, there's so many things can still happen, so... But I just -- I definitely feel like I'm playing good. But, you know, those things can change. I think anyone can have an off day. I think it's the same for any person. Doesn't matter if you do sports, or if you just have a normal job, yeah.

Q. In the fourth game of the second set, you hit a very nice lob, just cleared a very tall player's head. Got a little help from the wind. Touched down just inside the baseline. Looked like Lindsay might have perhaps given up on the ball, thinking it was going out. Did you sense that her game began to slip after that? She was a bit deflated, perhaps, by that point?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, I mean, I definitely think, you know, those type of shots in, you know, at those stages of the match can definitely make a bigger impact on the player that's losing, I think - definitely. Because it's always, you know, you're probably hoping the ball to go out. If it drops in, you're like, "Oh, everything's going against me," maybe a little bit. That's definitely something that really, you know -- even like for me, you know, I felt really motivating after that shot as well. I really felt like I had to keep the pressure on because those are moments where you feel like, you know, "Just keep making the shots and try to, you know, let her move and stuff." Then she would eventually make the mistakes. I think definitely that lob definitely made her maybe little bit down on herself.

Q. You broke on the next point?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, yeah. So I definitely think she was maybe a little frustrated there as well, yeah.

Q. Do you feel like you've been forced to play your top, top level yet? Or do you feel like, "Maybe I'm playing 80, 90 percent but I haven't had to bring out everything in my game"?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I definitely feel like I've had to, against a lot of -- in a lot of matches, you know. Especially also from the beginning, my second round against Granville, I really felt it there. I had a pretty tough match against her in Scottsdale. I felt -- getting into those matches, I felt like I have to play close to my best tennis to get through these matches in two sets. And so I think if you go on the court with that, you know, with that attitude from the start of a Grand Slam, I think you, you know, you get a lot stronger, I think, once you get those tougher opponents, you know, like today and like Amelie yesterday as well.

Q. How difficult was it?


Q. How difficult has it been to play your top tennis considering the week we've just gone through, the conditions for the last five days?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I mean, it's been hard, you know. I feel like I've had to work hard for what, you know, to win my matches. But I've played well. You know, although I think, you know, I'll -- I've won my matches in straight sets but I feel like I've had to, you know, stay focused. And that's what I've done really well, I think. I've stayed focus throughout almost every match so far these two weeks. I think that's the main reason, I think, why I've been so consistent, is just that I keep fighting for every ball.

Q. Obviously, you dealt with the pro-American crowd tonight with Lindsay. If it is Jennifer tomorrow, you'll have experience with that. What would it mean for you and Justine and your country if it were an all-Belgian final at the US Open?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I think it would even, you know, be I think more special, you know, because we're so far away from Belgium now in a way as well. And in Paris, it was -- I mean, it's always special, I think, to have an all-Belgian final. I think in Paris it was, you know. I think here, I think a lot of people don't even know where Belgium is I think here. I think this is a great way to, you know, to create, you know, some attention for the country and for the both of us as well, if I get to play her.

Q. A lot of people don't know maybe who Kim Clijsters is either.

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, for sure. I think in America a lot of the attention goes to the Americans. And there's so many sports here, like American football and all those things, and so, you know, I think American sport is so, you know, I think spread out that there's a lot more focus, I think, on a lot of, you know, the sports.

Q. Kim, you've had absolutely no trouble defeating Lindsay this year. You do have trouble with Justine. She plays a different game, of course. Gives you different slices, different paces. Is it that you feed off Lindsay's pace?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I think the biggest difference between Lindsay and Justine is Justine moves probably 10 times better than Lindsay. If you hit one good shot against Lindsay, you probably give yourself a good chance to set up, you know, to set yourself up to hit a winner in the next point. And against Justine, you have to -- you feel like you have to keep going, shot after shot. You have to make sure you play very consistent and very close to the lines. And against Lindsay, you know, sometimes, you feel like you can, you know, if you hit a few shots, you know, left, right, you definitely are in a more advantage situation than against Justine.

Q. Assuming that you're going to be playing her for years to come, isn't it a good idea for you to develop more of a net game, close off some of those points?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Maybe, Coach (smiling).

Q. Even though you have the No. 1 ranking, do you feel that there's a huge void in your career because you don't have a Grand Slam title to go along with it?

KIM CLIJSTERS: You know, there's been a lot of talk about that, especially coming into this Grand Slam. But, you know, especially there's been a lot of attention. But those things don't really bother me, you know. You know, the No. 1 spot has been something that no one can ever take away from me anymore. You know, I think a lot of people forget that I'm only 20 years old. I hope, like he said, we'll get the chance to keep playing for a few more years and compete against Justine and all the other girls and create some more chances to get through and play, you know, a lot of the Grand Slams.

Q. We Americans sometimes are a little slow with getting the big concept.

KIM CLIJSTERS: (Smiling.) If you say so yourself...

Q. If you can say to us slow Americans, how would you capture what is the essence of what really defines Belgium and the Belgian people, what is the essence?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Oh, my God. You know, it's hard I think for me to, because I just love going to Belgium because it's my home. My family lives there. But I think, you know, the way in the last few years, I think a lot of the people have reacted towards Justine and myself, our results, you know, I think it's become -- the country has become a lot more sporty, I think. In the past, maybe there was a lot of other things that they were more focused on. I think Belgium, I think we're a great country. Although we're small, you know, I think there's a lot of, you know, possibilities. And it's definitely something that, you know, I always look forward going home and meeting a lot of the people. So, yeah, I think it's just a very all-rounded country. We have a lot of everything.

Q. On a day like this when you're playing in the same place as Lleyton and he loses, the natural instinct for someone's girlfriend would be to feel down for him. You can't afford to do that when you have a match coming up. How do you deal with that?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, you do. I mean, it's -- of course I would love to see him win. But, you know, I don't think, you know -- I've said that so many times. It's probably getting -- tennis doesn't influence our relationship. I would love to see -- and both of us, he likes to see me win; I would like to see him win. I think we both know because we're in the same sport, we know what it's like. We know it's tough out there and that other players are having the same goals as you, and we try to win every match you play as well. So I don't think, you know, I don't think it, you know, you -- it's disappointing at the time, I think. But it's just not, you know, nothing tragic, I think. You know, you just want to, you know... I know that I have to stay focused on what I have to do. I was focusing on my match today.

Q. One of the only criticisms of you really is that you're too nice.


Q. That's what a lot of people say.


Q. Can you talk about that? Can an athlete be too nice? Do you think you're not as nice as people think you are (laughter)?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. I don't think that's what -- I mean, I've heard that a lot, especially these last few weeks. A lot of people are asking me, "Are you too nice to win tournaments?" I mean, you know, I would rather be known as a nice person and a person that, you know, was a good ambasssador for the sport of tennis. You know... But, I mean, it doesn't really bother me too much, what the people are talking about.

Q. Could I just ask a follow-up, though. Maybe some people mix up, you know, the hunger and that kind of attitude, killer attitude, killer instinct. How do you have that inside a person who just seems so sweet?

KIM CLIJSTERS: You know, when I'm on the court, you know, I get all that anger out on that little fluffy thing. I just try to, you know, put all my aggression in there. But, you know, I'm having fun in what I do. You know, I enjoy, you know, playing. I enjoy traveling. I enjoy, you know, meeting all the people and stuff. You know, that's definitely something, you know, I've been -- so far this week maybe more than even other tournaments, been having heaps of fun, even with the rain delays and stuff. I've been playing with a lot of kids and dogs. So, yeah, no, I've really had a great couple of weeks here in New York so far.

Q. Why do you think you're so nice and have such a joy?


Q. Yeah.

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. I don't know. I mean...

Q. The way you were brought up?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, I think so. Yeah.

Q. Many people who have won Grand Slams have talked about how winning that first Grand Slam changes them. There's a feeling of "Every time I go on the court, I can't lose." Even though they do, the feeling is still there. Does Lleyton talk to you about the feeling he got when he won his first Slam?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No. You know, again, you know, like I said to the gentleman over there, I think it's been very, you know -- tennis is not, you know -- we both have our coaches and we both have people around us that are very involved in our tennis situation and our tennis life. You know, I don't think when we, you know, when we come together, we don't want to talk about tennis, we don't want to hear more things about tennis. That's what we think about, you know, most of the day. So it's nice, in a way, to just forget about everything once we see each other, yeah.

Q. If you play Justine, she has thought in the last couple months that maybe mentally she is a little more stronger than you. So do you feel mentally ready for the battle?

KIM CLIJSTERS: You know, I don't think it's that big of a mental issue. I think Justine has just become physically a lot stronger. She's, you know, produced a lot more muscle. I think that's where she has made a big improvement compared to even in the beginning of this year, let's say, in Antwerp and in Australia and stuff. You definitely see that as well. She looks a lot stronger. She hits the ball a lot harder. She's still small, but she's not that skinny girl anymore. I think that's definitely where she's improved. She felt like she had to improve that, especially with having Venus and Serena around. You feel like you have to get yourself as strong and as fast as possible. I think that's definitely where she's improved herself.

Q. Are you in a good enough mental place to win a Grand Slam if you're playing well tomorrow?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I can't complain about the way I've been, you know, behaving mentally and the way I've been playing so far this, you know, these few last matches here. So that's definitely been, you know, a very positive thing to take into the final. But it doesn't, you know -- it's gonna be starting from zero again tomorrow, you know. You have to refocus and play. It's another match. So you just have to, you know, make sure that you're out there, battling hard and giving everything you have.

Q. What if you have to play Jennifer? Can you talk about Jennifer?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I think I just did that, no? I think I've done that already earlier.

End of FastScripts….

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